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Which Team Has the Most Star Power in the NHL?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2013

Which Team Has the Most Star Power in the NHL?

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    Jarome Iginla has been the face of the Calgary Flames and one of the most valued performers in the NHL since he entered the league as a 19-year-old rookie in the 1996-97 season.

    You could probably find Iginla's picture next to the word loyalty in any dictionary printed in Canada.

    But his long run with the Flames is over.

    Iginla was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the wee hours Thursday morning, days before the league's April 10 deadline (source: cbc.ca).

    It seemed certain Iginla was headed to Boston, but Iginla's preference was Pittsburgh and Calgary general manager Jay Feaster went along with his wishes.

    The Penguins were strong contenders for the Stanley Cup before the trade was made. Now they have joined the Chicago Blackhawks as the two most likely contenders for the crown when the postseason begins in four weeks.

    Iginla adds to the Penguins' luster and star power.

    Here's a look at 10 teams who also have designs on the cup and the star power they bring to the fight.

10. New York Rangers

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    Firepower: The New York Rangers came into the season as the favorite to win the Eastern Conference and get to the Stanley Cup Finals. It hasn't worked out that way as they have struggled along and are barely holding down the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Their biggest issue is their inability to put the puck in the net. Rick Nash and Derek Stepan are the only Rangers who have scored 10 or more goals and that's not good enough for head coach John Tortorella.

    Sizzle Factor: The Rangers have plenty of stars. In addition to Nash, who appears to be the Rangers' best player after a slow start, the Rangers need Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, Michael Del Zotto and goalie Henrik Lundqvist to be at their best if they are going to have a chance to rescue their season. The roster looks strong; the results have not been there yet.

    2013 Stanley Cup Outlook: It does not look good for the Rangers. They have not played to their potential from the start and every time it looks like they are starting to find their stride, they have a setback. The Rangers need to show they can beat the best teams in the league. So far, they are 0-5 against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens.

9. Detroit Red Wings

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    Firepower: The Red Wings knew this was going to be a difficult season when Nicklas Lidstrom retired after the team's first-round defeat in the playoffs to the Nashville Predators a year ago. However, the Red Wings still had plenty of weapons. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, rookie Damien Brunner and Johan Franzen are all solid players who can put the puck in the net.

    Sizzle Factor: Datsyuk and Zetterberg give the Red Wings one of the most dynamic combinations in the league. Hard-hitting Niklas Kronwall is a load on the blue line and is capable of turning any game around. Valtteri Filppula is one of the most underappreciated players in the league.

    2013 Stanley Cup Outlook: The Red Wings may be a longshot, but they have been the best team in the NHL for the last two decades. If they can get through the first round of the playoffs, they could be a very tough out because head coach Mike Babcock is one of the best in the business.

8. Vancouver Canucks

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    Firepower: The Canucks appeared to be one of the league's best teams at the start of the season, but they have fallen behind the Chicago Blackhawks and the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference. While they still have Henrik and Daniel Sedin at the top of their scoring list, they have been hindered badly by Ryan Kesler's injury-diminished season. Kesler has only been in the lineup in seven games and he is the team's backbone. Jannik Hansen has stepped up with 19 points and a plus-10 rating.

    Sizzle Factor: The Sedins are true stars, but they have not always been at their best in the biggest games. If the Canucks are going to do anything this year, they both must step up at key moments. Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa have the ability to change any game with their all-around play on the Vancouver blue line.

    2013 Stanley Cup Outlook: The Canucks are battling the upstart Minnesota Wild for the Northwest Division title. In recent years, they have been able to cruise into the playoffs. That won't be the case this year and the energy level of this team may be in question. The Canucks have been to the precipice, but they may not have the grit to get over the top.

7. Minnesota Wild

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    Firepower: The Wild don't get much attention from the majority of the media, but they are in first place in the Northwest Division and they are the second-hottest team in the league with seven consecutive wins. Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley have given this team the ability to score goals in bunches that it did not have in previous seasons.

    Sizzle Factor: The Wild upped their profile when they signed Parise and star defenseman Ryan Suter in the offseason. After a slow start, Suter has found his game and Parise has continued to play his best when his team needs him most. Goalie Niklas Backstrom is capable of shutting down the best offenses in the league. Koivu doesn't command a lot of attention, but he is an artist on the ice.

    2013 Stanley Cup Outlook: The Wild may be one of the most underrated teams in the league. They appear to be solid defensively while their offense has improved dramatically. They may be the team that nobody wants to face in the Stanley Cup playoffs next month because they have gotten so much better than they were in the past.

6. Los Angeles Kings

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    Firepower: The Kings defined themselves as a complete team when they won the Stanley Cup last year. While a slow start put them in the hole early, head coach Daryl Sutter's team has been picking it up steadily. When it comes to putting the puck in the net, Jeff Carter has been one of the best in the league this year. Anze Kopitar is a talented goal scorer and all-around player who can dominate. Dustin Brown and Mike Richards are also capable of carrying the Kings' suddenly well-balanced offense.

    Sizzle Factor: The Kings are the defending Stanley Cup champs and they carry themselves as if they know they earned the title. That will make them very tough once again. Kopitar is the team's best player and Carter has shown he can score at any time. Richards has the rare ability to make his best plays at the biggest moments. Goalie Jonathan Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy last year and needs to get back to his best form.

    2013 Stanley Cup Outlook: The Kings got off to a 3-0 lead in all four playoff series they had last year. No team had ever done that before. While it will likely be much tougher this time around, the Kings will be one of the toughest outs in this year's playoffs. Sutter will not let up and this team is extremely talented.

5. Boston Bruins

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    Firepower: The Bruins were dominating through the first two months of the season, but they have struggled in March under a heavy volume of games. Head coach Claude Julien's system earned this team the Stanley Cup two years ago, but goals have been difficult to come by as players like Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic have struggled at various times this season. Still, when the Bruins are playing well, they come at opponents in waves.

    Sizzle Factor: The Bruins look to captain Zdeno Chara to set the tone with his physical play and booming slap shot. Patrice Bergeron is one of the most complete players in the league. Brad Marchand has speed to burn, competes for every loose puck and knows how to score. Seguin is one of the fastest players in the league while David Krejci is one of the purest passers in the game.

    2013 Stanley Cup Outlook: The Bruins have the size, strength and snarl to beat anybody, but their penchant for slow starts and giving up third-period leads is very concerning. Tuukka Rask is one of the best goalies in the league, but he will remain in Tim Thomas's shadow until he can win consistently in the postseason. The Bruins will have to improve their consistency if they are going to win their second title in three seasons.

4. Montreal Canadiens

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    Firepower: The Canadiens have been one of the best stories in the league this year. After a 15th place finish in the Eastern Conference, they are battling the Pittsburgh Penguins for Eastern supremacy this year. Give head coach Michel Therrien kudos for getting the team back on track and keeping his players focused. Max Pacioretty, Michael Ryder, Tomas Plekanec and P.K. Subban can all fill up the net and score big third-period goals.

    Sizzle Factor: The Canadiens will always have the luster of being the most decorated team in the NHL. There is a real mystique about playing them at the Bell Centre and that helps Pacioretty and Subban perform at their best. Carey Price is still considered one of the best young goalies in the league, but despite his 2.37 goals against average and .911 save percentage, he has some nights where he is vulnerable.

    2013 Stanley Cup Outlook: The Canadiens have been consistently excellent all season and they have stood up to the Boston Bruins this year, defeating their storied rivals twice in Boston this year. They should be a very difficult team to beat this year, although they are still on the small side and Price can have his nightmarish moments.

3. Anaheim Ducks

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    Firepower: While the Ducks have lost four games in a row, they have been one of the best teams in the league this year. They are still 10 points ahead of their neighbors and Pacific Division rival Los Angeles Kings. The Ducks have size, strength and the ability to fill up the net thanks to Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and golden oldies Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu.

    Sizzle Factor: The Ducks have great star power in Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan. They are capable of scoring in bunches and leading this team to key victories with their explosiveness. When Selanne has the puck on his stick in the slot, it's still one of the scariest sights in the game for opposing goalies. Viktor Fasth seems to be a coming star in the net for Anaheim.

    2013 Stanley Cup Outlook: The Ducks may be going through a bit of difficulty right now, but they have the size and strength to overpower a lot of teams. Head coach Bruce Boudreau does not appear to have the track record to take his team a long way in the postseason based on his failures in Washington, but his team has played its heart out for him.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Firepower: The Penguins are on a sensational roll, having won 12 games in a row as Sidney Crosby is back in stride and the leading scorer in the league. However, general manager Ray Shero has not been resting. He has added Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla to upgrade the teams' forwards. When it comes to scoring, no team can match the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz and James Neal can all dominate.

    Sizzle Factor: The late additions of Iginla and Morrow only increases the star power on the Penguins. They already had the league's best one-two punch in Crosby and Malkin and Kris Letang is one of the best defensemen in the league when he is healthy. All eyes will be on the Penguins as they have risen to the top of the Eastern Conference.

    2013 Stanley Cup Outlook: While the Pens are an overwhelmingly strong offensive team and their defense has been spectacular during the winning streak, there are questions about the back end and the goaltending. Both were horrible in last year's first-round playoff loss to the Flyers and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury must demonstrate that he is capable of playing for a Stanley Cup winning team once again.

1. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Firepower: The Blackhawks were record setters when they went their first 24 games before tasting a regulation defeat this season. After getting eliminated from the playoffs in the first round the last two years, Joel Quenneville's team came out firing on all cylinders. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith have been superb this season.

    Sizzle Factor: Kane has always been a talented scorer and artist since coming into the league, but he has raised his game to a new level. Toews may be the most complete player in the league and there is nobody who plays with more effort in all three zones. Hossa has the ability to score big goals with opponents draped all over him because of his size and strength. The goaltending of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery has been sensational for much of the season.

    2013 Stanley Cup Outlook: Despite the moves of the Penguins, the Blackhawks are the favorites to match their 2010 achievement and win their second Stanley Cup in four seasons. The Blackhawks are not the hardest hitting team in the league, but they dominate in puck possession and they make more plays than their opponents. They will probably be pushed to the brink, but they should be able to raise the Stanley Cup when this truncated season comes to an end.

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